Skyscraper City Forum banner
1 - 11 of 11 Posts

·
Registered
Joined
·
19 Posts
Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Hi everyone wasn't sure whether or not to include this in the British Tower Block threads.

Basically its just about a low rise housing estate called Southgate which use to be in Runcorn and was designed by the famous architect James Stirling.

The estate was part of the New Town and probably one of the most unconventional housing schemes I've ever seen.

Heres some pics:







The estate consisted of low rise maisonettes and flats which where all connected via walkways or streets in the skies and there was a central walkway which connected the estate to the "Shopping City" the retail and civic centre of the New Town which itself is quite an interesting modernist structure with an elevated busway.



Past the maisonettes and flats there were houses nicknamed "lego houses" and "legoland":





The entire estate was demolished 1990-92.
 

·
Gog Almighty
Joined
·
523 Posts
For me, that's the post of the year. Fantastic stuff!

Been mentioned on the British Tower Blocks stuff a few times, but only seen a couple of photos before. Have vague recollection of seeing them on telly in the olden days. Not sure if it was something to do with phoning Eileen Bilton or on Granada Reports.

Isn't this the busway outside "Shopping City"?



Found some pics of Castlefields on Flickr whilst looking for that, but I think I'll put them on the British Tower Blocks thread.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
19 Posts
Discussion Starter · #4 · (Edited)
Yes thats the north bus stand in the Shopping City or Halton Lea as its now officially known. What a great pic must have been taken not long after the Shopping City opened as the law courts are still under construction. Would love to go back to how it was then.

Brilliant pic have u got anymore?

The Shopping City was a really great design the first American style shopping mall in this country but everything elevated above ground. It also integrated too bus stands the north one and the south one which was built in the late 70's or early 80's.

The mirrored structure reflecting Southgate in my post above and the one of the shopping city in my first post with the walkway connected to it contains the south bus stand before that all the buses use to come both ways on the north stand and for out of town buses at the stand below it on ground level. I think they built the south bus stand cause the congestion must have been bad.

The Shopping City was a really great place back then and as well as shops also had a cinema, market, two pubs, library, post office and the council buildings, constabulary shown in your picture as well as a government building called East Lane which is now a real eyesore as its all boarded up as they relocated everyone to the new civil service building just by it called castle view house in the mid 90's. The council buildings shown behind the bus stand are now half empty. The constabulary and law courts are still in use but the library which is just to the left of the bus stand is undergoing renovation.

The City (as its universally referred to in Runcorn) has changed too much though now for me and the inside has lost a lot of its character (it'd probably look very dated if it hadn't have changed though) even though its improved a bit lately as it went through a really bad patch during the 90's when they where refitting the ceiling cause of the asbestos in it but it looks quite rundown on the outside (not the clean bleached white it use to be) and its probably the building of the Asda and small Trident Retail park on the south side close to where Southgate use to be that have kept it going.

Yeah Castlefields thats undergoing redevelopment as well all the old deck access flats are being demolished and the local centre as well which is like a very small version of the shopping city elevated above ground with the bus way running beneath it.


heres a video from youtube of Southgate

http://www.youtube.com/user/JoeBlundell

would love to see some more footage of Southgate I think its a shame it got demolished as to me it was one of the most unique modernist housing experiments in this country.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
1,944 Posts
Fantastic buildings, I loved the (Hulme) Crescents as a kid (although my elders didn't), likewise I have a great fondness for Park Hill (Sheffield).

Its disgraceful that they were demolished, when you see the tat (Barratt-style shoeboxes and retail sheds) that have replaced them.

Perhaps the continued fault of the way British Government (planning, local and nationally) is, rather than the inhabitants? Proper maintenance, a sense of ownership, and visible policing might have helped.

Despite 'regeneration' (knocking down these structures), there is still unemployment, deprivation, nearly 18 years later.

IIRC, these were built (and maintained) by the Runcorn Development Corporation, who later merged to form the Warrington and Runcorn DC, later spun into the CNT, English Partnerships, etc.

Some more pics:









Some info on 'Southgate' from RUDI:

Rudi said:
In the late 1960s, the Development Corporation commissioned the late Sir James Stirling, an architect of international repute, to design the Southgate estate. Located beside and linked to Shopping City, it was intended to be the Corporation`s most prestigious development, a 'flagship' which the Development Corporation`s General Manager thought "could very well set a new standard in housing design in this country".

The design comprised an estate of 1,100 deck access flats and maisonettes in five storey blocks finished in plain concrete (picture) and 255 timber framed two and three storey terraced blocks clad in bright orange and turquoise coloured plastic panels. The dwellings were flat roofed and were built using non-traditional materials and system building(11) techniques. (picture) The flats were constructed between 1969 and 1975 and the terraced houses between 1975 and 1977.

The layout of Southgate was intended to reflect the Georgian squares of Bath and Edinburgh. The porthole windows of the terraced houses echoed the 'maritime' origins of the majority of occupants who would come from Merseyside.

Just over 20 years after initial construction began the decision to demolish the estate was taken and, by 1993, the site was cleared.

Southgate demonstrated many of the design features of public housing in the late 1960s and early 1970s. A catalogue of problems quickly developed to a point where, by the early 1980s, almost 30% of the estate stood empty at any one time. Houses became difficult to let, many tenants wanted to move out and the only ones who moved in were often those who had no choice about where they wanted to live.

Vandalism and graffiti were rife. The crime rate was alarming and for many residents the experience of life on Southgate became a nightmare. Its hostile, bleak and forbidding atmosphere earned it the reputation of the worst estate in Cheshire for crime, drugs and social deprivation. By the time Merseyside Improved Homes Housing Association took over the management of the estate for the Commission for the New Towns in 1989, it was only half full with many people living in appalling conditions.

Why the estate should have failed so miserably can be attributed to a number of different factors. The need to deliver a large population adjacent to the town centre led to a density which, at 289 persons per hectare (117 to the acre), was probably too high. The appearance and 'feel' of the estate was never liked.

The deck access flats were particularly unpopular and quickly became known as 'Concrete City'. The terraced houses, with their porthole windows, became known locally as the 'washing machines' and their brightly coloured plastic cladding earned them the nickname, both locally and nationally, of 'Legoland'. (picture)

Constructional and technical faults began to emerge. To these were added condensation problems once difficulties with the district heating(12) system became apparent and the price of oil began to rise. The heating system has in fact been cited as the biggest mistake in a catalogue of disasters surrounding the demise of the estate. The cost of deriving heat from the system led directly to rent increases and in turn to problems of lettability.

The sums of money being spent on an estate with a limited life expectancy, and which was always going to be unsatisfactory, eventually proved to be excessive and the decision to demolish was made.

Whilst James Stirling`s design clearly did not work, he was working to a very specific brief. In a statement made at the time of the decision to demolish in 1989, he said,

"Many of the large public housing estates of the Fifties, Sixties and Seventies originated with a planning brief of very specific and comprehensive requirements, drawn up by local government officials and their planning advisers. These were given to architects as conclusive and essential criteria for their design proposals. They determined almost every aspect of the housing and were by far the largest contribution to the eventual appearance and environment of the estates."

Whatever the reasons behind the failure of Southgate, it is clear that the planning brief and the architect`s response to it must take a large share of the blame.

It was undoubtedly the bad experience of Southgate with its unconventional design which influenced the traditional design of Hallwood Park, the estate which has replaced Southgate.

By the time Merseyside Improved Homes took over management of Southgate for the Commission for the New Towns in 1989, the decision to re-develop the estate had been made. What emerged from the close spirit of co-operation which existed between the tenants and Merseyside Improved Homes is an award winning and highly prestigious estate on which some 554 new homes will eventually be built.

The emphasis is very much on the traditional with tried and tested techniques. Working closely with the architects, residents have contributed to the design and internal layout of the houses as well as to the external environment. (picture)

Traditional building methods are being used and the conventional layout consists of low-rise, one and two storey, semi-detached properties with front and rear gardens. (picture)

Whilst the transformation of the estate has been an enormous success, the 554 new homes are only a small proportion of the original 1,300 which Southgate once contained.

When Southgate was demolished, Runcorn lost 12% of its rented stock. There is therefore an urgent and continuing need to provide more socially rented housing.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
19 Posts
Discussion Starter · #8 ·
Rudi has hit it on the head there! Thanks for posting that and the pics link_road.

I too think the decision to demolish Southgate was a disgrace especially since Hallwood Park is far smaller housing scheme and still has a lot of problems. I'd even go as far to say that in some ways its worse than Southgate but I think thats a more general problem as Runcorn as a whole is much worse today wheras twenty five years ago Runcorn was an okay place to live with Southgate being the only area that had a really bad reputation and of course there were a lot of good people living on Southgate.

This may sound a bit harsh but I've lived in Runcorn all my life and since the demolition of Southgate I think the new town as a whole has grown steadily worse and Castlefields particulary gained a reputation almost as bad as Southgate.

I've always said that since the demolition of Southgate there's been a huge housing shortage in Runcorn and I think that if the estate had off been better maintained and tenancies not given to just anyone the estate could have been salavaged. I think there would of had to have been more security put in place and some of the underlying problems of the design would of had to been have been addressed like the district heating and also trying to stop vandalism on the estate.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
19 Posts
Discussion Starter · #9 ·
seen as we're on the subject of Runcorn New Town here's some pics of Castlefields in its heyday. Castlefields along with Southgate was the other grand housing scheme and simillar to Southgate the area got a bit of a bad rep and is currently undergoing regeneration and redevelopment.

this is what Castlefields local centre looks like today

 

·
Registered
Joined
·
2 Posts
ok JT (fall fan not john terry fan) - i lived on the grange estate and still live in runcorn - the city and southgate were places we'd hang out all the time in the 70s and 80s - the new hallwood park estate that replaced southgate is just another 'maunders' wasteland and although s'gate had its problems the actual housing was great = my cousin lived in one of the 'porthole' flats and she loved it - it was actually quite bohemian to live there when it was first constructed but fell into squalor once it became a dumping ground for 'problem families' and 'smackheads' - my inverted commas. the entire new town is being slowly pulled down estate by estate - first s'gate then the halton brook three stories now castlefields and whilst architecturally some of the brutalist feel and styles have little to recommend them (if you actually live in a crumbling castlefields death trap) then atleast the social experiment of the new town should be cherished for the ostive things it provided - the mutant scouse/wool accent for one! (scul?)
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
16 Posts
ok JT (fall fan not john terry fan) - i lived on the grange estate and still live in runcorn - the city and southgate were places we'd hang out all the time in the 70s and 80s - the new hallwood park estate that replaced southgate is just another 'maunders' wasteland and although s'gate had its problems the actual housing was great = my cousin lived in one of the 'porthole' flats and she loved it - it was actually quite bohemian to live there when it was first constructed but fell into squalor once it became a dumping ground for 'problem families' and 'smackheads' - my inverted commas. the entire new town is being slowly pulled down estate by estate - first s'gate then the halton brook three stories now castlefields and whilst architecturally some of the brutalist feel and styles have little to recommend them (if you actually live in a crumbling castlefields death trap) then atleast the social experiment of the new town should be cherished for the ostive things it provided - the mutant scouse/wool accent for one! (scul?)
I lived in both the 2 storey and 3 storey houses in Southgate and I loved both of them. The 3 storey was especially spacious with 4 good sized bedrooms. When I first moved in there was a fantastic sense of community, at least in our street, which consisted mainly of young families. I only moved out when I moved away for a while but came back to Runcorn to buy after Southgate had been demolished.
 
1 - 11 of 11 Posts
Top